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Story Behind Iconic Photo Of Winston Churchill

This is one of the most famous portraits ever made. It’s a legendary portrait of a legendary man by a legendary photographer. There’s also a legendary story about how it was shot. The photo was taken by one of the most famous portrait photographers, Yousef Karsh–known as Karsh of Ottawa in 1941, after Churchill gave a speech to Canadian House of Commons in Ottawa. Karsh was hired by the Canadian government to do this portrait and knew he would have very little time to make the picture. After the speech, Churchil was brought into the Speaker’s Chamber, where Karsh had set up his camera and lighting equipment the night before. Churchil had not been told that he would be photographed on this occasion. He relented, but at the same time pulled out a cigar, lit it, and began puffing away. By the words of Karsh: “Churchill’s cigar was ever present. I held out an ashtray, but he would not dispose of it. I went back to my camera and made sure that everything was all right technically. I waited; he continued to chomp vigorously at his cigar. I waited. Then I stepped toward him and, without premeditation, but ever so respectfully, I said, “Forgive me, sir,” and plucked the cigar out of his mouth. By the time I got back to my camera, he looked so belligerent he could have devoured me. It was at that instant that I took the photograph.” 

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